When Mackenzie Nelson celebrated her birthday last month, there was no cake. Instead, the 4-year-old had her favorite treat, a plain and unflavored snowcone made with spring water.
The Pembroke Pines resident has a rare and undiagnosed disease that’s left her unable to eat food without reacting violently. She gets all of her nutrition from a feeding tube to her stomach, but her mom, Ashley Nelson says it’s not enough.
Now, the family’s community is rallying together to get them some answers and hopefully, a cure.
Between fundraiser nights at local restaurants, a carnival and T-shirt and bracelet sales, students at Archbishop McCarthy High School were able to raise $22,000 for Mackenzie.
“It has been amazing to see so many people come together and help,” Nelson said. “I was shocked when I heard how much money the school had raised within the month.”
The money will go toward the family’s visit to the Undiagnosed and Rare Disease Program at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. Since the hospital is out of network, Mackenzie’s stay won’t be covered by her insurance.
Over 20 student clubs at Archbishop McCarthy worked together to raise the money, including the French club, who sold crepes. Local businesses like the Weston ice cream shop, CREAM, which donated cookie sale profits and Pembroke Pines-based Gimme A Burger, that hosted a two-day fundraiser, also got involved.
A massive, cardboard check, representing the total amount of money collected, was presented to the Nelson family at a “Hungry For a Cure” carnival at the high school. The event featured food trucks and a movie night on the field. It was organized by members of over 20 student-run clubs.
On April 29, fundraising efforts will continue, this time at the Quarterdeck Neighborhood Grill in Davie.
The exact date of Mackenzie’s trip to the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin hasn’t been determined yet, but her mom is already in talks with the lead doctor on her case. In March, the family traveled to Alabama to perform an extensive, $6,000 blood test on Mackenzie. Results take 90 days and will be sent to the Wisconsin hospital.
“I’m going against how the rest of the water in the stream is flowing,” Nelson said. “But I will not stop until someone, somewhere can help Mackenzie.”
The next Hungry For a Cure fundraiser will take place on April 29, from 2 to 6 p.m. at Quarterdeck Neighborhood Grill, 3155 South University Drive in Davie.